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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The city of Uijongbu — pushed by a group working to remove U.S. bases from Korea – has informed the U.S. Army it wants to increase the water and sewer rates paid by about nine 2nd Infantry Division camps and is seeking more than $800,000 in back utility payments.

U.S. officials on a Status of Forces Agreement utilities subcommittee are reviewing the increase that Uijongbu city requested in a Feb. 28 letter, said Dennis Bohannon, spokesman for the Korea Regional Office. By the end of this week, the full utilities subcommittee will review the request and make a recommendation, he said.

“Most of the time, if it’s a reasonable request, it will be honored,” Bohannon said.

The city asked the U.S. military for about $830,000 in back payments for sewage service dating from 1998, Ko said, and for about $4,400 in back payments since the Army began using city water in October 2002.

Under the Status of Forces Agreement, the U.S. government and cities providing utilities to U.S. Army installations in South Korea must agree to the rates the United States will be charged, Bohannon said. He said a SOFA utilities subcommittee reviews rate-increase requests.

A South Korean civic group is threatening legal action over its contention that the U.S. Army owes $1 million in delinquent sewage payments. Lee Pyong-su, head of Uijongbu Citizens Solidarity for Peace Without USA Bases, said the division should pay a higher rate for water.

Lee, who pushed Uijongbu city officials to press for the money, held a news conference in front of Camp Red Cloud, division headquarters, in late January to demand the money and an apology.

Ko said that in February, city officials asked for a rate increase from the Ministry of the Environment, which forwarded the request to the U.S. military.

Camp Red Cloud produces its own water supply. It’s connected to the Uijongbu water system for emergency use only, according to KORO.

In fiscal 2001, the camp paid $56 for water connection fees and $91,942 for sewer services, according to the Army.

To date, no formal complaints have been filed through the SOFA committees, Bohannon said. “The civic group is entitled to its opinion,” he said, “but their charges are unfounded.”

— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.

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